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Best bets: Upgrade on memory, firewalls

SHARE Best bets: Upgrade on memory, firewalls

Let's talk about a few things.

Run, don't walk, to buy more memory for your computer. I still have a receipt for when I paid $500 for 16K (that's kilobytes) of RAM. Today, you can get 256 megabytes of RAM for $40.

To see what impact a memory upgrade can offer, I borrowed a few sticks of memory from the folks at Crucial www.crucial.com that runs the best memory Web site I have seen. (That's because it has a memory selector that pinpoints the exact memory you need, based on your computer maker or your motherboard, or both. Compare that with the dolts behind the counter at the electronics megastore on Sunday morning and you will see what I mean.)

Anyway, I ran some basic applications (browsing, Microsoft Word, a few Excel spreadsheets and a game of Unreal Tournament) and did some informal benchmarking. Doubling my memory from 128 to 256 improved loading time on some applications (Word, Excel) by 35 percent. Browsing improvement is hard to measure because of the variability of the Web itself and local caching, but I saw a noticeable improvement.

And, I had never won an Unreal Tournament match among my co-workers until the night after I upgraded. Call it coincidence, but . . .

Anyway, it is a very huge improvement for very little money. And nearly anyone can install their own memory with the handy guide Crucial supplies.

Want to see if your computer is secure? If you have a high-speed connection, you need a firewall. Want proof? Head to Steve Gibson's excellent, free site www.grc.com and run his Shields Up utility. It will tell you how bad your situation really is. If you are really serious, you may want to invest in a hardware firewall. . . . I will have a column coming up on one I am trying out.

Several readers have written about my comments on Windows XP and how Microsoft plans to link its installation to parts in your computer. The scheme is, of course, you will have to ask Microsoft before you make significant changes to your computer (something like video cards, motherboards or hard drives, we don't know for sure yet) or your operating system may not run. The question is, once XP is released and you buy a new PC, can you get Windows Me on it instead? The answer is sure, at least for a year or two. If you insist, companies like Dell will install virtually any OS or supply the PC without one and you can install it yourself.

WEEKLY WEB WONDER: Want to buy your own domain name? It's cheap and easy. Just avoid trademarks. Head to www.register.com and see if your choice is still available.

James Derk is new media editor for The Evansville Courier & Press. His e-mail address is jderk@evansville.net.